Sir Alfred Hitchcock


Suggested Films:


Pyscho (1960)
North by Northwest (1959)
Vertigo (1958)
Spellbound (1945)

One of the most famous urban myths surrounding Hitchcock concerns a story when he was five years old and was sent to the local police station with a note from his father after some mischief-making. After reading the note, a sergeant put young Alfred in a cell, and left him there for a few agonizing moments.The policeman returned and let Alfred go, only to tell him,

‘This is what we do to naughty boys’

True or not, this story and Hitchcock's strict Roman Catholic background, encompass all the themes Hitchcock would later put in his work - terror inflicted upon the unknowing, and sometimes innocent victim; guilt (both real guilt and the appearance of it); fear and redemption.

A devout Catholic who attended church regularly throughout his life, Hitchcock was the son of greengrocers William and Emma Hitchcock and grew up with his older siblings, William and Ellen Kathleen in Leytonstone, part of London's East End. Fascinated by numbers and technology, Alfred was educated at the Jesuits' St. Ignatius College, but left school at 16 to study engineering and navigation at the University of London.

Hitchcock's keen interest in cinema and art happily coincided with a job opening at Paramount studios in London as a title designer for silent films. He worked his way up to assistant director and in 1922, at the age of 22, started work on the film 'No. 13'. A year after he gained the title of director with The Pleasure Garden (1925). Hitchcock married film editor Alma Reville; she had become his screenwriting collaborator and they would remain married until his death.

His next film, The Lodger (1926), was a success and launched his career in England. He soon became the most successful and highest paid director in England. Blackmail (1929) was described by most critics as the first successful British sound film, and Murder! (1930), made his subsequently familiar connection between sex, violence and criminality. In 1934, The 'Man Who Knew Too Much brought Hitchcock' was his first major commercial success, followed by The Thirty-nine Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936) and The Lady Vanishes (1938).

As the onset of World War II loomed over Europe, Hitchcock emigrated to the U.S. to direct Rebecca (1940). While the film won an Oscar, Hitchcock did not win for Best Director (and never would, although he would receive honorary Oscars.)

1950-1960 was an amazingly productive decade for Hitchcock. He made several films that would become minor classics (Dial "M" for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Strangers on a Train) and four masterpieces: Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho.

1955 was then an auspicious year for Alfred Hitchcock - he became a U.S. citizen and launched 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', the TV show that catapulted him from lauded director and celebrity to icon. His visibility was increased by the uproar over Psycho, which upon its initial release sparked endless debate about the film's onscreen violence.

Psycho (1960) was a film which has entered the collective memory of film goers everywhere with its brilliant editing and shot selection, its graphic violence and its powerful score. Not many films have been able to emulate this film for sheer tension, although 'The Exorcist' springs to mind. He continued to produce psychologically powerful works through the 1960s, including The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964), but Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969) were more conventional espionage thrillers.

Hitchcock returned to England to make Frenzy (1972), a resumption of the familiar Hitchcock theme of an innocent man suspected of being a killer. His last film, Family Plot (1976), joins psychism and crime in a typical mix. In 1979, Hitchcock received the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute, and in 1980 he was knighted, though an American citizen.

James Stewart said at the funeral,

‘There was nobody like him, and he'll be hard to replace. I've lost a wonderful friend. The world has lost a tremendous contribution to the art of film and to millions and millions of people’













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